Sex and the media
I’ve been thinking about what we see, watch, read and hear, in terms of gender. How all the white male privilege they’ve had us hardwired into since birth, has fucked with our brains. How the entertainment industry rewards men more than anyone else and most men aren’t even that entertaining. They hog the mic, passing it back and forth between themselves, denying other members of society their rightful voice. All the little bits of inequality add up, they culminate into a toxic culture, and that’s what we’re living in now. A hetero-patriarchal culture reported by a hetero-patriarchal mainstream media. No wonder we’re in strife.
I’ve been thinking about gender in creative workplaces. Music is a workplace and it’s celebrated at The Age Music Victoria Awards; a parochial back slapping affair where the public awards trophies to people for being musical and/or hosting good music. It’s a male heavy affair. The Age are the major sponsors. They love music because they have to do something to try and save their ship before it goes down. The slow, painful death of The Age is so agonising you can feel it in your hands. The now flimsy rag, but a shadow of its former girthy self. The Age seeks sponsorship opportunities to maintain some semblance of relevance to the youth market because youth are the future. Youth markets define their youth through music and fashion more than anything else (other than owning the latest iPhone). Who the youth decide to elevate to the status of the headline act on the stage that is life is newsworthy. The Age wants in on the ground floor when that fairy dust gets sprinkled and the next-gen of music stars are born. Then at least that band and that band’s friends and family will buy The Age, just for the clippings for the scrapbook.
A nagging suspicion of the purity of heart of The Age’s support of live music had been festering in my cynical heart. Fairfax, owners of The Age, had recently been involved in a fiasco over not wanting to pay musos for their work at the surprisingly lucrative new arm of Fairfax’s business: managing noodle markets in public parks. Fairfax think it’s a fair suck of the sav for bands to be paid ‘in exposure’ rather than in a currency that might actually afford said band a real sav.
Had The Age misinterpreted the idea of supporting artists with the capitalist tendency toward taking the piss? There is a difference between supporting artists and profiteering off the unpaid labour of artists. When ‘many hear the calling, but few are chosen’ (as is the case in music) that’s fertile ground for unscrupulous merchants to move in and cash up from the talent of others, and they often do. Anyone who uses the media to speak out about the systematic non payment of artists are already stars in my book even before I hear them play, (which I will soon Black Bird Hum because I-like-a-bit-o-politic-with-me-culture). And who doesn’t love Australian reggae? Some Australian reggae stands up even when you’re not stoned.
At The Age Music Victoria Awards, Bakehouse Helen introduced me to The Age’s big boss, then editor-in-chief Mark Forbes. Me, I just love transgressing into societies power elites at functions they can’t leave. Some call me a star fucker, but they’re just jealous. It’s the influence of the captains of industry that I savour rubbing my experienced yet still somewhat attractive shoulders, up against for a bit of conceptual rough and tumble. Also, more generally, loudly disagreeing with successful men (especially if there’s an audience) is a favoured past time of mine. Yep, it just never gets old. The look of surprise when they realize you’re not auditioning, you’re trying not to be liked or approved.
Anyway, I said to Mark Forbes (then editor-in-chief of The Age), I said: ‘you know Mark, you should employ me as Gender Equity Consultant for The Age and for The Age Victorian Music Awards.’ It was at the ‘gender equity’ bit that Mark’s attention began to waiver, so I got stuck in before he switched off completely as men have a tendency to do when women start talking ‘gender equity’.
‘In The Age’s 162 year history the newspaper has never employed a female editor-in-chief. That’s how highly you guys rate men down there at The Age. You see Mark I fear a toxic, outdated boy’s club culture continues to flourish under the masthead you lead. There are not nearly enough women nominated for these music awards here tonight and the paper you’re the chief of, bangs on way too much about all things ‘men’. Increasingly the public are questioning how interesting male men actually are. The rich white straight men, the alumni of Scotch or Geelong or Xavier, the ones who always end up in your paper. They (in particular) are facing obvious signs of over-exposure. That’s where people lose interest in what your men are saying and doing on the grounds of, ……’been there, done that, bought the postcard, looking for something new and fresh now.’ Mark Forbes laughed even though it was no joke and assured me gender equity was better now than it used to be. That’s shorthand for ‘gender equity is stalled until we, the men holding on for dear life to all the money and power, say otherwise.’
I offered up my business card, one of the ones stolen from the bank where I cross out all of their irrelevant details and install my own ‘round the mess. Mark Forbes said it was smart and funny. ‘Yes. Everything I do is smart and funny excepting the emboldened, unfunny shit I do real late at night, inebriated, tired, bored, and workshopping the latest in saying the shit you shouldn’t to the people you shouldn’t just for cheap kicks.’
Anyway, I didn’t get the gender equity consultant job at The Age, but here’s the kicker. The bit where one can fully indulge one’s working class penchant for righteous indignation. Mark Forbes, then editor-in-chief of The Age lost said big career later that same night for the sexual harassment of a junior reporter that was there trying to cover The Age Music Victoria Awards.
Seriously you can’t make this shit up. As the recently appointed Gender Equity Consultant of The Age, I would have advised Mark Forbes to keep his hands to himself, that the days when men in senior positions of power within workplaces could misuse that influence to sexually harass women at work functions, those days are well and truly over. That memo had gone out already to all the highly paid male men bosses, the ones employed by the rich white male men boards, awarded large remuneration packages, part of which is to at least aim for ‘industry best practice.’ Industry Best Practice for the boss does not include screwing the crew. It’s impossible to do a good job when the boss is trying to cop a feel.
It’s near impossible to even get a job as a journalist these days, (there are more people studying journalism than there are people currently employed as journalists, you do the math).
And speaking of words and Freud and how the sub-conscious can give away more than we were hoping, Myriam Robin reported that:
On the afternoon of Thursday November 17, Age editor-in-chief Mark Forbes sent an email to his newsroom. “Wednesday night was The Age Music Victoria Awards, with sell-out crowds, great music and a lot of love for The Age’s support of live music in this town. I think I’m still recovering.” Forbes’ career might never recover.
Speaking of media bosses acting out like obsolete sexist assholes from an episode of Mad Men, Mark Forbes has plenty of company from bosses of other huge media empires. Media bosses doing a Don Draper or a Roger Sterling, setting the example for the rest of the men in the office to crowd round Peggy’s desk and tell her how ‘pretty’ she is, how ‘busty’ she’s looking today. Not that they have a problem with that.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxZ3A9giyIo Mad Men – Peggy Olsen – Women in the Workplace 2 mins
Roger Ailes had a twenty year reign at Fox News and what a piece of work he was. It’s not Australia, but Uncle Rupert sets an International standardized tone for normalizing noxious behaviour toward women. And given that American is still at the forefront of cultural imperialism, take a look at what has been going down at Fox:
“Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes always brags to people about how he doesn’t do polling or testing when he chooses his on-air talent. He told me that if he was thinking of hiring a woman, he’d ask himself if he would fuck her, and if he would, then he’d hire her to be on-camera,” the employee said.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEoWSaM61NI 70 Awful Displays of Sexism on Fox News 6mins.
Thanks Uncle Rupert for your legacy. NOT. Which one of Rupert’s male man money friends does he think should have a go at being our PM next? Just pick up The Australian for answers. Speaking of Uncle Rupert, any time I go to a café that provides a Herald Sun as reading material (or any of the other 200 or so Australian hate rags News Ltd. publishes), I handbag it and throw it into the nearest bin. Any eyes that can be saved from Rupert’s scourge is a massive win for all humanity. Try it yourself. Life is shaped by a series of small gestures and achievable goals realized by the masses.
Back home here down under, Channel Seven boss Tim ‘Woopsie’ Worner has created more mayhem for Seven than a toolie crashing schoolies week. Who makes a toolie the boss and gives him the company business card to max out? Once the consensual affair with former employee/lover Amber Harrison ended, her position within the company became ‘redundant’ in more ways than one. Seven made a deal to buy Ambers silence but when they stopped paying Amber went public. Amber Harrison lost her career while Tim continues ‘onwards’ and ‘asks the media for some privacy at this difficult time so he can work to rebuild those relationships that are most important to him, namely with his wife and kids.’ Oh, and his boss Kerry Stokes, and Seven’s shareholders and employees, those relationships may need some tweaking too.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRUbC32loA4 Women in the Workplace, Family Guy (2 mins)
Seven’s Mum and Dad shareholders, with their family values and their investment portfolios, the ones tuning in from harbour side mansions each morning to Sunrise with Kochie and whichever interchangeable hot young blonde is currently employed to be his offsider, (laughing and enjoying him and encouraging us to enjoy him too), well these Mum and Dad investors didn’t like Seven West being brought into disrepute by its highly paid, highly amorous boss. All the sexting with the ‘I’m so hard for you right now I want you so bad take your knickers off now’ explicitness. The revelations of the amped up cocaine fuelled sex sessions on the ‘business’ trips. The ‘entertainment’ category on Tim’s visa statements resemble Slash in his rock ‘n roll heyday. At Seven under Woopsie there are lawsuits, lawyers and secrecy clauses, non of which is cheap. It’d be hard (boom boom) to put an exact figure on publicity this bad, advertising revenue exit stage right.
‘Exactly what kind of goddamed circus is this business?’ the Mum and Dad investors asked themselves. They divested their interests for an exciting second, Seven West took a massive hit up their share price before bouncing back, reassured the Mum and Dad investors were, by the buoyant corporate silence. Tim might have survived this particular Bosses Gone Wild episode, supported as ‘he’ is by ‘his’ male man friends on the board who backed his philandering saggy white ass. Male men love to run in a pack they do, round and round in circles they go, sniffing each other’s asses, checking their ratings, counting their money.
The Australian Shareholders’ Association (ASA) has called on Mr Worner to resign over the scandal. Mr Worner’s fate is in the hands of a board that includes majority shareholder and chairman Kerry Stokes, and his son Ryan, former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett and former Essendon chairman David Evans. The 10-member board includes only two women.
Back when Tim ‘Woopsie’ Worner was a young man working his way up through the world’s most isolated city, Perth, he and some mates set up a horse syndicate. Tim said it was because the races are an excellent place to pick up sheilas. Tim and his pals thought themselves very funny, and brainstormed up risqué horse names referencing women and the juvenile humour preferred by schoolboys. Horse names like: She Likes to Party, Soapy Star, Legs Akimbo, Centrefold Spread, Chicks Dig Me, Hot Business, or Chiq Flick. Yep, Tim ‘Woopsie’ Worner was already exhibiting a sophisticated understanding of the Australian cultural landscape that would later see him ascend to Boss of a company broadcasting ‘entertainment’ into the lounge rooms of the nation. These guys with their managerial responsibilities, they don’t need to justify their workplace misbehaviour to the bosses. They are the bosses. Fuck me what a joke.
Even if we pay no attention to recent examples of sexual harassment in the media by bosses, this article by Annabelle Lukin proves the media landscape is a fugly place for women. ‘She’ writes a damning paper based on data from 13,000 articles and 7.4 million words from 18 Australian newspapers between August 2105 and July 2016 that contained one of the keywords: Australia, Australian or Australians. Check out the graphs.
The article looks at how gender imbalance plays out in the news and guess what. Of the top 21 names published there are 20 very Anglo male men’s names, and just one woman’s name, Julie, as in Julie Bishop (and we don’t even like Julie Bishop. But don’t worry, in Australia we can always descend further into hell, ‘Pauline’ as in Pauline Hanson, Australia’s most broadcast racist, she’ll be representing women on next years list. The word ‘he’ was printed almost 4 times more often than the word ‘she’. Print media prefers to write more generally about ‘women’ than it does ‘men’. ‘He’ gets to be an individual where as ‘she’ is considered more generally, as in we women are all the same so don’t bother yourselves with the details. As far as a damning portrait of who has a voice in Australia and who doesn’t, this is a trump card. Men are the news more than women are the news. From the time kids can read we’re sending them messages about what they can expect from society. Men assume power, women don’t assume anything. Women have their expectations managed down from day one.
The situation for women in society is bad, but don’t worry, the Victorian Government has a new strategy and all we have to do to fix the problem is to work with men and help them sort their shit out.
Media and the arts are powerful sources of information and culture, shaping social norms, attitudes and public discourse around gender. These industries have the potential both to reinforce and to challenge restrictive gender norms.
In 2016 gender stereotypes still dominate the mainstream media and the arts, shaping ideas about how one should look, act and treat others.
When women and girls are depicted, they are twice as likely as men to be shown in sexually explicit scenes; they are also more likely to be the subject of violence.
What works: Making gender inequality visible
Evidence shows that simply drawing people’s attention to a problem can bring about change. In 2014, ABC News’ internal analysis found that 80% of interview time was dedicated to men. Over the next 12 months, women’s representation in interviews grew by 6%, and ABC News has since made greater diversity a requirement, aiming for equal male and female representation to more accurately reflect Australian viewers.
So the media, the industry whose job it is to keep us informed and/or entertained, the media is a messed up #cockfest. Whoever is telling the history owns the history. The media are as sexist as the entertainment industry and that takes some doing, but hey, the bosses, the Captains of Industry could be competing with each other for how long they can maintain outdated hetero-patriarchal frameworks of white male privilege. Men own, run and profit most from the media and entertainment industries. The longer these pariahs continue being sexist dickheads, the more pathetic the systems that shield them look. Men harassing women in the workplace, other men protecting the careers of the harassers even after strong, brave women speak out and make public the harassment, often at great personal and professional cost. What the hell kind of society is this? Even when a woman gets the job, men can (and do) still fuck it up for us. The media is one messed up puppy.